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Women to Watch Out For in 2013

Cheryl Morgan

Cheryl Morgan

The blog post listing the most anticipated fantasy books of 2013 got a bit of negative attention because of the complete absence of women from the top ten. I thought I would lend a hand by listing a few 2013 books by women that people might find interesting.

Of course any such list does depend on what you classify as “fantasy”. If you restrict your choice to heroic epic fantasy then finding women might be hard. Urban fantasy might be more female-dominated. And publishers have been showing a tendency of late to slap a “fantasy” label on any spec-fic book by a woman, no matter how science-fictional, presumably on the assumption that women don’t buy SF. Sometimes, of course, writers do deliberately cross boundaries. It is all very confusing.

The Shining Girls (cover)One of the books I’m most looking forward to next year is The Shining Girls, the new release from Lauren Beukes. She hit the big time with Zoo City, which won the Clarke Award despite being heavily rooted in African folklore and being full of animal spirits. The publicity for The Shining Girls suggests that it is about a time-travelling serial killer, which sounds like science fiction. But knowing Lauren I would not be at all surprised to see her drop something supernatural in there just to mess with people’s heads.

Thankfully there’s no doubt about the new release from another of my favorite writers. Hopkinson’s Sister Mine is about the daughter of a demigod who, having no magic of her own, elects to go and live among humans. The Caribbean Creole in which Nalo’s characters often speak can be a bit hard to get into for some, but I love it. Must be something to do with having grown up in Somerset adoring Viv Richards.

Talking of Somerset, Emma Newman was born in Cornwall but now lives near Bath. She has recently been signed by Angry Robot. I heard her read the first chapter of Between Two Thorns at an event in Bristol over the weekend. In it, her drunken hero gets taken short on his way home from a long night in the pub and sneaks into a museum’s grounds to relieve himself. There he accidentally surprises two decidedly inhuman characters and a Tinkerbell-like fairy stealing a corpse. I have tried hard to avoid making a joke that mentioning extreme beer consumption was a great way to attract the attention of Angry Robot editor, Lee Harris, but appear to have failed dismally. Sorry Lee. If you want to know more about Emma’s Split Worlds universe, she has been publishing free short stories set in it. See her website for details.

Six Gun Snow White (cover)Fairy tales are, of course, a favorite subject for women writers. 2013 sees two fascinating re-tellings of a favorite story. First up we have Catherynne M. Valente with Six Gun Snow White. In this version our heroine is a woman of the Crow people, a Native American tribe. She gets her name because her father is one of the palefaces. The book is a limited edition novella from an American small press, Subterranean, making it costly and hard to come by, but Valente is a brilliant writer and I want to read all of her books.

A more accessible version will be Poison by Sarah Pinborough. Sarah is one of Britain’s finest horror writers, and this book sees her turn her attention to Snow White. She puts our heroine in a present day setting. Knowing Sarah, she’ll probably poison more than just poor Snow. The book will apparently be lavishly illustrated by the popular artist, Les Edwards.

More typical of Sarah’s fare is Mayhem, a story of a serial killer from the East End of London who collects the heads of his female victims. Jack the Ripper may or may not put in an appearance.

Cold Steel (cover)A couple of fantasy trilogies are seeing their final volumes released in 2013. First up we have Cold Steel, the final part of Kate Elliot’s Spiritwalker series. I’ve recently stared following Elliot on Twitter and am now very interested to see what she does. Oh, and the “steel” bit in the title does indeed indicate that there’s a war in the book.

Mary Robinette Kowal’s series is more like Jane Austen with magic. However, despite a cover that makes Without a Summer look like pure romance, there’s a lot more to the book. The title refers to 1816 when most of the world suffered a climate disaster following the eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia. This caused a lot of social upheaval, and publicity for the book suggests that Kowal has her heroine taking on the Luddites, political revolutionaries opposed to the use of machinery in factories.

There is science of a different kind in Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons. Her heroine, Isabella, Lady Trent, is a naturalist with an interest in large and dangerous animals. To give you some idea of the nature of the book, here’s some blurb:

“Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.”

The book has an awesome cover which should see it rush off the shelves.

Blackwood (cover)I’ve just been reading, Blackwood, Gwenda Bond’s debut novel from Strange Chemistry. It is great stuff. Her next book, entirely unrelated, is due out next year. Called Woken Gods, it is set in a near future world in which the gods of the ancient world have come back; all of them. Each of the pantheons has an embassy in Washington, and you can bet there’s plenty of skullduggery going on.

The villain of Blackwood is the Elizabethan alchemist, John Dee. He gets much better press from Maria Dahvana Headley, whose Queen of Kings was very well received last year. Her new book, Dark Lady, is set in Elizabethan England at the time of the Spanish Armada. Dee and Sir Francis Walshingham need to protect the country from a marauding Egyptian demon. Their top secret agent, Christopher Marlowe, is assigned to the job. Little does Marlowe know that Will Shakespeare’s new girlfriend, the secretive woman he refers to only as the Dark Lady, is actually the immortal Egyptian queen, Cleopatra.

Gemma Files produced a wonderful queer steampunk horror Western series from Canadian small press, ChiZine. With that done her next book is very different, except for the horror content. Experimental Film features a professor of film history who discovers an unknown woman film-maker working at the time of George Melies (the man featured in the movie, Hugo). As it turns out, there are very good reasons why this woman’s movies have been forgotten. There are things in them mankind was never meant to see.

Blood Oranges (cover)My favorite book of 2013 was The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan. For 2013 she’s gone for something so different that it is actually published under the pseudonym of Kathleen Tierney. Blood Oranges is an unusual take on the leather-and-vampires genre. In the blurb, Kiernan’s heroine says, “If you buy into my reputation, I’m the most notorious demon hunter in New England. But rumors of my badassery have been slightly exaggerated. Instead of having kung-fu skills and a closet full of medieval weapons, I’m an ex-junkie with a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time.” Kiernan also has a short story collection, The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories, due from Subterranean.

Apparently release of Anne Lyle’s The Merchant of Dreams has been put back to January, so that now counts as something to very much look forward to. And I have been hearing very good things about a new Strange Chemistry signing: Laura Lam’s Pantomine. I also want to make mention of my good friend, Joanne Hall, who first novel sale, The Art of Forgetting, is due out towards the end of 2013 (hopefully in time for BristolCon).

Wizard's Tower (logo)For my own part at Wizard’s Tower, I’ll have more volumes of Juliet E. McKenna’s Tales of Einarinn series released as ebooks. There will also be more of Lyda Morehouse’s AngeLINK series, which was marketed as cyberpunk when it first came out but would probably be classed as fantasy today as it does contain angels.

And finally, just to prove that I’m not some man-hating harpy, the fantasy novel that I’m most looking forward to in 2013 is River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay. Why this wasn’t on the original list is a complete mystery to me.

Title image by Boros Szikszai.



  1. Avatar Anne Lyle says:

    Thanks for including me in your list, Cheryl! For the record, 3rd January has always been the official release date for my UK paperback – it was the US/Worldwide release date that was brought *forward*, owing to Christmas.

    I can also confirm that starting your book with beer is a good way to interest Angry Robot, since The Alchemist of Souls begins with a scene where the hero and his best friend argue about which pub to go to that evening 🙂

  2. Avatar Jo Hall says:

    Thanks for the mention, Cheryl, and for all the great tips. Really need to read some Cat Valente… (oh, and June and December for Vols 1 and 2 of Art of Forgetting, they tell me – and that might be the heroic epic fantasy you’re missing….)

  3. There will also be more of Lyda Morehouse’s AngeLINK series, which was marketed as cyberpunk when it first came out but would probably be classed as fantasy today as it does contain angels.

    I do think it would be marketed as Urban Fantasy, today, although it does sit across genre boundaries.

    And, yea, more Link novels in ebook. Very pleased about this.

  4. Avatar Kirsty says:

    Interesting collection of authors and books to add to my ever-growing collection of Things I Need To Read.

    I’m looking forward to Six Gun Snow White (from the books listed here), as I love Catherynne M Valente’s writing, and I think the other Snow White story is jumping up the queue now as well.

  5. Avatar Laura says:

    Thanks for the shoutout, Cheryl! Lots of great books coming in 2013 that I can’t wait to get stuck into.

  6. Avatar bandrs says:

    Thank you so much for this article!

  7. Avatar Elizabeth Campbell says:

    Thanks for putting this list together, and thanks for continuing to keep women authors in people’s awareness. It makes me crazy to see book lists with only male authors.

    Is Karen Lord publishing something this year? And Julie Czerneda has an Enormo-Tome coming this spring, I think it’s A Turn of Light.

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